Tiger Woods worn down by long season, tough finish

There’s the kind of Tiger Woods fatigue that befalls a golf fan this time of year after following a season’s worth of wall-to-wall coverage of the man.

Then there’s the first-person variety, Woods declaring as he did Friday at the Tour Championship, “I’m tired.”

“It’s been just a long, long grind,” he said after a second round that was part moon shot and part pratfall. The 1-over 71 on Friday left the FedEx Cup’s top seed 4 over for the tournament, tied for 26th place in the 30-player field.

Who, you might ask, is the real Tiger Woods?

Is he the player of historic stature, the one who finally began assaulting par here Friday, going 5 under through his first 13 holes?

Or is he the one who began spray-painting his drives into high grass, forest and water, giving it all back and then some over the final five holes? The one who came off the course sounding as weary as a dock worker at the end of a 12-hour shift?

“I put everything I had into that start and didn’t have much at the end. I just ran out of gas,” he said.

Perhaps now he is both kinds of player.

Woods didn’t make his first birdie until the 21st hole of the tournament, then ran off four more to get 2 under par before the fateful 14th hole. His drive there went far left, “and from there it just got worse.” After just avoiding some Port-o-lets and not avoiding a green-side bunker, he took his double-bogey six.

No. 17 was worse, a triple-bogey seven that featured a drive well into the depths of East Lake and an 88-yard chip from the middle of the fairway that landed tragically short of the green. It was his first triple bogey in 54 career rounds at the Tour Championship.

On his drive, Woods said, “My legs were just tired. I didn’t rotate through the ball and I turned it over. Same thing I did over on 14.”

He ended the day 14 strokes behind the lead of Henrik Stenson. What could possibly be left for the weekend? “I’m still in contention (perhaps a very outside shot at the FedEx Cup bonus). There’s 36 holes. That’s why we play,” he said. “It’s a marathon.”

Only he looked like he already had run the 26.2 miles.

Early to rise: Rain has been a factor in every event of the FedEx Cup playoffs, so why should the finale be any different? The start of Tour Championship play Saturday was moved up to 7:30 a.m. in the hope of beating the storms in the forecast. And instead of the usual twosomes, players will be grouped in threes for the third round. The leaders are scheduled to go off at 9 a.m.

Sunday’s forecast is much improved from earlier in the week, with the chance of rain at 20 percent.

The lone eagle: Atlanta’s Roberto Castro made no move on the lead Friday, shooting a 71 to put him eight strokes south of Stenson. But he did manage one distinction, his 3 on the 590-yard par-5 No. 9 was the only eagle recorded in the first two rounds of the Tour Championship.

“It takes me two pretty good shots to reach. I had a 60-foot putt, and it looked good from the first foot,” he said.

Not enough highlights on the back side, though, as Castro was 2 over through that stretch.

So, how does he catch Stenson? “Ahhh, there’s two more rounds,” Castro said.

The fearsome twosome: Friday’s low score happened to be shared by guys in the same pairing. Both Nick Watney and Keegan Bradley climbed the leaderboard with 5-under-par 65s.

“He birdied the first two, and I didn’t want to get embarrassed out there. I knew I had some work to do. It took me 17 holes to catch him, but I finally was able to do it,” said Watney, explaining how he fed off Bradley’s quick start.

They are not breaking up the band yet — they are part of the same threesome Saturday.

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